FLORES, Indonesia (ChurchMilitant.com) - One third of the priests in an Indonesian diocese have quit to protest inaction over allegations of an affair, embezzlement and extortion by their bishop.
Sixty-nine priests of the diocese of Ruteng resigned last week over failure to meet their demands amid a three-year protest over diocesan leadership. The group is accusing Bp. Hubertus Leteng of blackmailing priests and nuns, misappropriating over $100,000 to support a lover and allowing priests who have lived with women to say Mass.
Bishop Leteng is denying the allegations, calling them "slanderous." He is claiming the money was used to pay for flight school for a youth from a poor family but has refused to give details.
In 2014, a petition calling for the dismissal of Bp. Leteng was circulated and obtained 109 supporters before it was presented to the Indonesian Bishops' Conference. The allegations made against him include buying a house and three cars for a woman he calls a "foster child." It is believed he is bribing her to remain silent about an affair he is having with his "adopted son."
The group calling for Bp. Leteng's removal also claims he heeds all of the requests by his "adopted son" without "priestly consideration." They say his "son" requests Masses to be said by priests that have been found living with women. Other priests have been harassed or dismissed for "no apparent reason."
This group also claims Bp. Leteng arranged a phony marriage for his two adopted children to remove suspicion. It only strengthened the belief that the bishop was having an affair because only priests involved in suspected criminal activity and supportive of the bishop were in attendance.
An update to the October 2014 petition states that they are waiting for a follow-up from the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, although they want additional signatures "so that the mafia in the diocese of Manggarai can be dismantled."
In response to the petition, the diocese released an official reply, reading, "We urge all people to keep the peace and quiet. We should always nurture and foster the spirit of unity, forgiveness and brotherhood in the Catholic Church."
In 2016, 112 out of the 167 diocesan priests signed a letter of "no confidence" in the bishop. An anonymous priest has confirmed that the bishop was investigated and the report was sent to the Vatican, but he clarifies that "the Vatican has not taken action yet."
The priests are demanding "renewal in pastoral work as well as in Church and financial management," says Fr. Marthen Chen, spokesman for the group, "so the Church can be truly in line with the guidance of the Holy Spirit."
The laity have taken to social media to express their views and wishes for an immediate resolution. One layman, Rikard Rahmat, believes the diocesan leadership has a serious moral and ethical issue, saying on social media, "If it's not solved through dialog among them, there is a need for outside help, such as the Vatican."